A realisation that I had recently really put bad habits in a perspective I hadn’t considered before. Not only have I understood for a long time that we carry out nonsensical behaviours because of benefits that are conscious and or often unconscious, we do them also because they help us deny reality, or at least, to briefly escape from it.
That the undercurrent of feelings that we often hold in our bodies and minds force parts of our minds to want to escape from and deny them. That the mind looks for the quickest mechanism it knows in which to do so. That’s where smoking comes in for a lot of smokers. That they nip down from their office building a few times a day to have that smoke to avoid the stressful environment of working in a job they probably don’t like. It’s why many smokers smoke more during times of stress and tension. The need to escape and deny reality through the act of smoking increases during those periods of heightened stress and people smoke more accordingly.
Binge drinking is another common example. At the end of the day people are still usually in flight mode, or stress mode, wanting to return to a state of equilibrium, a state of comfort. But it can be a bit hard when there are 100 different issues going on inside that persons mind. To escape reality they have a drink, which turns into ten, because our minds say “hold on, let’s take advantage of this and escape from the tension, stress, and worries”.
The solution most of the time to all of this is to confront reality. To not deny it or escape from it, but to confront it head on. And that means noticing the feelings and thoughts in the body and mind when that part of you wants to escape and deny reality. This is when you want to smoke or when you want to drink or eat chocolate (comfort food).
Be present with your body and mind when you finish work. Where do you notice stress being held in the body? What is the underlying feeling like? By being aware of the part of the body, or all of the body where the stress is being held, the body sends signals to the brain to release that stress and tension. It’s why there are so many yoga fanatics out there, because it works. Their focus is on the body, and when our focus and attention are on the body, that anxiety or yearning for that negative behaviour is released because one isn’t denying reality anymore or trying to escape from it. It can be difficult initially but with practice, learning to watch the body gets easier as does living without the habit or behaviour (hypnosis can fast track this generally).
There can be of course biological reasons why we crave certain things. Nicotine in cigarettes, sugar in comfort food etc. But most of these desires are psychological in nature. Smokers don’t freak out generally when they’ve sat on a plane for a bit less than a day travelling half way around the world and haven’t been able to smoke. For most smokers it’s not nicotine, it’s the need to deny and escape the stress, the reality. But when we go inside and face that reality it never really is that bad. Parts of our mind just thought it was.